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Faculty Mentor

Shelly Brandenburger and Lacey McCormack

Abstract

This study set out to explore what factors in a campus environment influence students’ eating behaviors through qualitative methods. The student researcher developed questions based on a similar study and with the help of the faculty advisors. Researchers conducted focus groups and asked 9 open-ended questions. This study utilized a qualitative focus group approach along with a demographic survey that yielded quantitative data. Findings in the present study suggest that students eat unhealthier options when healthier options are available because of time, convenience, and cost. Students would like to cook in the dorm kitchens to eat healthier, however, most participants stated the kitchens were riddled with dirty dishes, filled with people, or they were unable to get supplies needed to cook. Recent changes in student meal plans require a minimum number of meals at the dining hall. Students report this change caused them to want to eat larger portions and resort to stealing in the form of bringing storage containers and hiding fruit under their shirts. Overpriced healthy food persuades students from eating those options, resulting in students buying unhealthy food choices. Students in this study noted several other concerns regarding the campus food service and health. Several struggled with finding nutrition information about campus food and others felt that the current food service was not flexible for students with special dietary needs. This study contributes some baseline information about what factors influence student choices and student insights on how the campus environment can influence food choices.

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